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Going to school in America
Eric Kandel Scientist
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So my aunt Paula, Berman’s wife, registered me in Public School 217, quite nice public school, not far from my house. And I was there, this was sort of April until June, and began to learn English there, but I was deeply uncomfortable. And that is although, you know, I had no reason to believe this, it looked to me like everyone in the class was not Jewish, because in America it’s difficult to tell Jews from non-Jews. Many Jews have blond hair and blue eyes. And I began to feel uncomfortable there; I thought the same thing would happen to me as happened in Vienna.

My grandfather, I don’t think, sensed this, but he and I always had a very good relationship. And he had gotten to know Mr Braverman, the principal of the Yeshivah Flatbush, a very good Hebrew parochial school two blocks away from my house. And he always wanted me to have more of a Hebrew education, and he volunteered to tutor me in Hebrew if I was willing to work with him, so I could take the entrance exam, and maybe get a scholarship for the Yeshivah Flatbush. I had no interest in learning Hebrew, I had no interest in going to the Yeshivah Flatbush, but I was dying to get out of 217, so he tutored me and I got in to the Yeshivah Flatbush.

[Q] Did you know English when you came up?

Did I know any Hebrew beforehand?

[Q] English.

I picked up English so rapidly. I… I don’t remember having any difficulty with it, but you know, kids pick up English on the street and I think by the time I spoke to the Yeshivah… I went to the Yeshivah, I already spoke English quite well. I hadn’t… didn’t know a word before I came here, but my brother spoke some English, and of course my uncle and aunt spoke English. I don’t remember the sequence and if it was seamless.

Eric Kandel (b. 1929) is an American neuropsychiatrist. He was a recipient of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research on the physiological basis of memory storage in neurons. He shared the prize with Arvid Carlsson and Paul Greengard. Kandel, who had studied psychoanalysis, wanted to understand how memory works. His mentor, Harry Grundfest, said, 'If you want to understand the brain you're going to have to take a reductionist approach, one cell at a time.' Kandel then studied the neural system of the sea slug Aplysia californica, which has large nerve cells amenable to experimental manipulation and is a member of the simplest group of animals known to be capable of learning. Kandel is a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. He is also Senior Investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He was the founding director of the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, which is now the Department of Neuroscience at Columbia University. Kandel's popularized account chronicling his life and research, 'In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind', was awarded the 2006 Los Angeles Times Book Award for Science and Technology.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Yeshivah Flatbush, Public School 217, Joel Braverman

Duration: 1 minute, 52 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2015

Date story went live: 04 May 2016